Housing sales in Wisconsin showed no signs of slowing down, setting yet another first-quarter record and outpacing the Midwest region and the nation as a whole, according to the latest analysis by the Wisconsin Realtors Association.
The Realtor association said sales of existing homes in Wisconsin increased 3.5 percent in the first quarter over the same period last year, with a total of 30,525 units sold during the first three months of this year. This growth was certainly better than the Midwest region, which grew at 1.1 percent, and it was well above the nation, which saw home sales fall 2.1 percent during the first quarter of 2006 as compared to the same period last year.
“This was a very good quarter for home sales in Wisconsin especially given that we are growing off of record levels of home sales,” said WRA Chairman Jeff Kitchen. “Although the quarter started slowly, it picked up steam throughout February and March and finished by setting a record.” According to Kitchen, “A robust economy combined with mortgage rates that remain relatively low by historical standards continues to fuel this remarkable market.”
Wisconsin has gained population and it added more than 30,000 jobs in the first quarter of this year as compared to the first quarter of 2005, dropping the statewide unemployment rate to 4.7 percent in March, according to a press statement. “These economic indicators imply that the economy will continue to support a strong housing market in Wisconsin for the foreseeable future,” Kitchen said.
Comparing the first quarter of 2006 with the same quarter last year, existing-home sales were in positive territory in all regions of the state, with the strongest growth in the Central, North and South Central regions of the state. Specifically, home sales grew 13.5 percent in the Central region; they were up 8 percent in the South Central region; and they increased 7.3 percent in the Northern region. The Northeast region advanced 3.3 percent, whereas the Southeast and the Western regions grew more moderately, in the 1 percent-2 percent range. This growth is on top of the record home sales established in the first quarter of 2005.
Home prices in the first quarter rose at about the rate of inflation, according to the association’s report, with median home prices increasing 3.6 percent to $158,200. Across the state, median prices increased in five of the six regions and were down only slightly in one region. “The median price growth has moderated from the 6 (percent) to 8 percent range seen in recent quarters and that’s a healthy sign that housing remains affordable in Wisconsin,” said WRA President William Malkasian. “With 30 year conventional mortgage rates rising by almost a full percentage point since June of last year, it is not surprising that housing prices are growing at a more modest pace,” he said.
The Wisconsin Realtors Association is one of the largest trade associations in the state, representing more than 17,000 real estate brokers, sales people and affiliates statewide.